The United States Postal Service (USPS) started National Dog Bite Prevention Week several years ago to call on owners to take more responsibility to prevent their dog from attacking someone. The campaign also hopes to impart several tips to decrease both the number and severity of dog bites. While many people assume their dog would never bite, the truth is that any dog can bite when the circumstances are right.
Although approximately 6,500 postal workers sustain a dog bite every year, they’re not the only group of people who are frequently dog bite victims. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that dogs bite approximately 4.5 million people every year. It might surprise you to learn that children are 900 times more likely to receive a serious dog bite than letter carriers and package delivery personnel. Additionally, five percent of all people who visit a hospital emergency room do so because of a dog bite.
Practical Tips to Prevent Dog Bites
According to the CDC, the best thing to do when a dog unfamiliar to you approaches is to remain still. Allow him to sniff you if you feel comfortable with that. If not, state “Go home!” in a firm but calm voice. Don’t make direct eye contact with the dog because it could come across as a threat to him. Turning to your side and backing away while allowing the dog to pass reduces what a dog might otherwise see as an aggressive posture. By running from a dog, it triggers his instinct to chase after you.
Never walk up to an unknown dog or pet a dog you don’t know if you’re not certain that she saw you. Giving her a few minutes to sniff you will help her to feel more relaxed about your encounter as well. Keep in mind that a dog is most likely to turn aggressive if you interrupt her when caring for puppies, eating, or sleeping. If you have children, don’t allow them to play with or near any dog unless supervised. This includes your own dog.
How to Prevent Your Own Dog from Biting
Since some dogs are aggressive even when they play, it’s essential to train your dog or enroll him in obedience classes so he learns how to play properly. Be sure to keep your dog in a locked room when anyone unfamiliar to him knocks on the door. Because they’re naturally territorial, dogs don’t understand that someone delivering a package or coming to visit you isn’t a threat.
The characteristics of dogs who bite the most frequently include those who remain on a leash for many hours a day, receive little attention, and who have never received proper socialization. Avoiding these situations is the best way to prevent your own dog from biting someone.
How to Respond to a Dog Bite
If a dog attacks you and you’re holding something like a jacket or purse, put the item between yourself and the dog to reduce the degree of injury. Should a dog knock you to the ground, curl your body into a ball and put your hands over your ears and neck. You should seek immediate medical aid if you have a deep wound, swelling, uncontrolled bleeding, develop a fever, or notice that the wound has become dark red or warm. For minor dog bite injuries, apply antiseptic cream and cover the wound with a clean bandage after first washing it with soap and water.
Please contact us at Chaska Valley Veterinary Clinic with additional questions on this topic or to schedule a preventive care exam for your dog.
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